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Indian Pangolin Manis crassicaudata  © Gerald Cubitt / IUCN Pangolin Specialist Group

Trade in Asian pangolins

Indian Pangolin Manis crassicaudata © Gerald Cubitt / IUCN Pangolin Specialist Group

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Published 14th July 2009

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Toothless laws encourage rising demand for Asian pangolins

Updates: On 15th July, Guangzhou Customs officials seized more than a tonne—1194 kg—of frozen pangolins and 602 kg of dry rat snake skins. Life for ring leader of wildlife smuggling gang who trafficked 2,000 pangolins and other animals in China. In India, Assam Rifles troops make several pangolin seizures in July. Details at end of release.

Singapore, 14th July 2009—rising demand for pangolins, mostly from mainland China, compounded by lax laws is wiping out the unique toothless anteaters from their native habitats in Southeast Asia, according to a group of leading pangolin experts.

Proceedings of the workshop on trade and conservation of pangolins native to South and Southeast Asia

Report author(s):
S. Pantel and S.Y. Chin (eds)

Publication date:
July 2009


Notes:

1 On 15th July 2009, Guangzhou Customs officials seized more than a tonne—1194 kg—of frozen pangolins and 602 kg of dry rat snake skins from a dock on the Pearl River Estuary, according to a Chinese Government website. Customs said the animals had been transported first to Hong Kong then by fast yacht to Guangdong, rather than the "normal route" via Vietnam then overland to Guangxi, probably because of recent strong enforcement action along the China-Vietnam border.

2 Beijing, China, 9th July 2009—The leader of a wildlife smuggling gang has been sentenced to life in prison in Guangdong province, for trafficking a menagerie of protected animal parts including over 2,023 Pangolins. The man and six other gang members were caught off the Guangdong coast late last year with a boat load of wildlife that also contained, 153 kg of frozen internal organs of Pangolins, 800 kg of pangolin scales, 732 live Monacle Cobras, 3,904 live Oriental Rat snakes, 32, 393 dried Oriental Rat snake skins and 363 frozen Civet cats. Investigations revealed that the gang left Lufeng Jiazi port in Shanwei for Malaysian waters on November 26 last year, in a fishing boat bearing a fake license plate.

They arrived in Malaysian waters on 1 December where they made contact with another fishing vessel that was carrying the wildlife. The gang leader then arranged to have several bags of frozen animals and cages containing snakes loaded onto the gang’s boat. On their return trip, the gang was stopped by Shantou Customs at Haizehnyan, near the Guangdong Coast, and their illegal haul was seized. Shantou Customs released news of the judgment on Tuesday.

Apart from life imprisonment sentence, the Shanwei Court also ordered the gang leader’s personal property seized, the Guangzhou Daily reported. The court also sentenced six other gang members to between three and 15 in prison, the report said. The origin of the smuggled wildlife is unclear – Pangolins, Oriental Rat snakes and Civet cats occur throughout Southeast Asia and all three are found in both Malaysia and Indonesia. However, China’s Custom’s website reports that the animals were smuggled from Malaysia.

3 India—Troops of the Assam Rifles in India made several small-scale seizures of pangolin parts in July, including 2.8 kg of pangolin shells seized on 2 July, followed by 2.3 kg of pangolin scales a day later, both at Bongyang checkpoint, 4.5 kg of pangolin shells at Khudengthabi checkpost on 8 July and 950 gms of pangolin shells on 12th July.

4 There are four species of pangolin in Asia; Thick-tailed Pangolin Manis crassicaudata, Philippine Pangolin M. culionensis, Sunda Pangolin M. javanica and Chinese Pangolin M. pentadactyla

5 All pangolins in illegal trade are wild-sourced as they cannot be captive bred on a commercial scale. 

6 In the wild, pangolins breed slowly, producing just one young at a time, making populations particularly vulnerable to over-exploitation.